Ian Forrester on Backstage

Last night I went down to my second GeekUp meet at 3345 Parr Street in Liverpool. If you don’t know what GeekUp is, here’s a quote from the website:

GeekUp is a community of web designers, web developers, and other tech-minded folk from the North West. Our socials take place once a month in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Preston and Sheffield they are always a lively place to share ideas and spread a little knowledge.

Ian Forrester.  Creative Commons licenced by Gavin BellThere’s usually a couple of talks before moving to the bar for chat and beer and this month’s talk was by Ian Forrester, the man behind backstage.bbc.co.uk.

Backstage is a community built around data made available by the BBC. It encourages the public to make use of the data for cool stuff and highlights what the Beeb is offering. I’m not going to go into all the prototypes which have come out of backstage or list the feeds and APIs they advertise – you can find that out from the website – but there’s other interesting things going on as well!

Since backstage started, it’s focus has been on feeds and APIs but that seems to be changing now. They’ll soon be starting a fortnightly online show featuring interviews with the tech community, introducing the work people are doing and explaining the web in a bit more detail than BBC Webwise. This will be done on a shoestring, but with help from other areas of the BBC (such as Click) they hope to maintain high production standards.

At a slightly larger scale, backstage are joining up with IT Conversations to record speakers at UK based conferences. Traditionally there’s been a notable US-bias towards this kind of material so it will be great to see a bit more variety to the speakers.

The final thing (that I’ll talk about) is the support backstage and Ian himself are giving for tech events. While living in London, Ian organised BarCamps, GeekDinners and supported dozens of events. With his move to Manchester, he’ll be shifting some of his attention to what the North can offer. There was discussion of starting GeekDinners in Manchester (not as a direct competitor to GeekUp, it should be noted) and other web/tech events in the North are getting backstage support and sponsorship.

So a very interesting and informative GeekUp Liverpool this month, and very different to the last one I attended. There’s a great community of web developers and designers in and around Liverpool and GeekUp can play an important part in bringing people together so I’d encourage anyone with an interest in the web professionally (or even just a strong interest in technology) to pop along to see what it’s all about.

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